Monday, October 25, 2010

Zest! review

Zest Exciting Food Creations has been one of my "go to" places. In fact, I have often thought of it as one of my favorite local spots. My feelings about it are strong, as I've always thought of it as comfortable, comforting, warm, welcoming, hearty, tasty and good value. I like their approach to slightly upscale comfort foods, and like their use of ingredients. And, typically, I've always thought their prices are very good, with it being fairly difficult to find anything for more than $20 for a dinner entree.

Anyhow, it had been a while since we'd been to Zest, and mom had never been, so we headed there last week (south end of Broad Ripple, on 54th).

One thing I realize as I write this, I think I have typically been to Zest in a type of "seasonal" pattern. We've most often eaten outside, in their odd little "patio" are of the parking lot. And, the other times inside have typically been for brunch on a weekend. While we've been there for supper, I'm not sure we'd eaten inside at supper time. Anyhow, it was a weeknight and very quiet. Apparently in the last month or so, they've changed the evening menu. It is now much more simplified, with only 7 dinner entrees available, plus a few specials. Now I really enjoyed the "full"menu that used to be available at supper time. And, while I realize it makes the organization and planning (and, ultimately overall cost) easier to manage by having less items, I do miss the full menu (which is still available at breakfast-brunch-lunch. So many affordable, tasty offerings there.

We started with the tomato bon bons, which were fantastic. A nice, full-flavored appetizer, but hard to consume in one bite (tho, to the Better Half's displeasure, I did). The sausage-tomato-cornmeal-asiago came together quite well. The bread that comes with your meal is warm, fresh and wonderful. Especially the pretzel bread, but I have a weakness for pretzel bread.

This evening we had three entrees - mom with the braised beef short rib, the Better Half with the Zest take on Chicken 'n Waffles, and for my first time I had (a Zest menu favorite) the Asiago "Fried" Chicken.

Plenty of food at Zest, with large servings that will not leave you wanting more. I'd been out raking leaves and I left some food behind. Now, part of that is that I didn't care for the cooked-down wild mushroom ragout that much, it was a bit overpowering for me. And, polenta is pretty far down on my list after rice, couscous, potatoes, etc.... But, it is a tasty meal, and the quotes around fried just mean that chicken was baked with a bit of a "crust" made of breadcrumbs and asiago cheese.

The upscale version of chicken and waffles was very appealing in name, and it was executed well and hit some soothing, homey notes. The cheddar-scallion waffle didn't sing for the Better Half, but I thought it was pretty tasty.

Mom's slow cooked short rib was enormous, though the amount of meat eventually kind of wore you out on the taste. It felt a bit overcooked, but that is a risk with slow cooked meats.

Overall, satisfying as usual, friendly service, good value (2 of the 7 entrees at $20 or more). But, ultimately, I felt less "at home" at Zest this evening than I have at other times. Ultimately, I really like Zest with their brunch and lunch menu. It feels homey and local, the value is high, the food is satisfying, the ingredients achieve great things at a good price point. Supper here seems more of an attempt at a finer dining experience, and while it is well executed, it seems like a mixed message to how I personally have come to value and enjoy Zest.

The verdict: 4 belly rubs (out of 5). Still a favorite, but not necessarily for the evening meal. Score on this visit bonused some from previous visits with the breakfast and lunch menu.

No comments: